K213 Darkness Falls
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There is just something so incredibly symbolic and great about this moment. "I am Tenzin"[/caption]
Written By - Joshua Hamilton
Directed By - Colin Heck
Animated By - Studio Mir
We ended the last episode with Korra confronted by Vaatu, they really could not have left it off any better for these last 2 episodes to just go for it. Which is exactly what the second last episode of Book 2 does, it takes things to a whole other level, we thought that the Book 1 Air finale was dramatic, but this was so much more. So much is at stake, honestly this episode and the next one really do rival the ATLA finale. In many ways the more spiritual focus here would make me lean towards this as my favourite Avatar finale. I feel it is very easy to mix up what happens in Darkness Falls with what happens in Light In The Dark, just because they are so linked that they perhaps should have been called part 1 and 2. It is also one of the reasons I am doing this review separately, so I focus on what episode 13 does specifically. This episode is excellent, it gives Tenzin some big moments, has hugely dramatic fight scenes and moments and even manages to do some of the romance really well. While the Korra story is the focus, the other characters are not just left behind, most characters get a moment to shine which is impressive this late in the Book.
I feel I need to mention the well done romance straight away as it has been the one aspect of the show that I felt has let this Book down a bit. While the Makorra/Masami stuff has been surprising in a bad way, the Bolin and Eska stuff here is surprising in a good way. I was convinced that once Bolin became a movers star and was away from Eska that that was the end of their relationship, so to see it come back here was a big surprise to me. Initially when Bolin began to talk about his feelings for Eska I thought, like Mako, that he was using his acting experience to get out of the situation, so when they are freed and Mako points this out and Bolin reveals that he was not acting I was very impressed. This was an out of the blue outburst of emotions from both Bolin and Eska, and as the way to show the twins full turn against their father it was well used, Desna and Mako's awkward glances at each other while watching their respective siblings kiss was a perfectly humourous way to show a little alliance. What's more is that I really got into them as a couple, Eska was showing more than just scientific interest in Bolin and was showing, for her, A LOT of emotion, I was excited to see where they would go as a couple into the future. As I said, I loved how they used this romance set up in the early episodes as a way to bring the twins over to the good side.
Speaking of emotions, this episode had some very shocking moments. Chief among them, Korra losing her connections to all of her past lives and the destruction of Raava, leaving Korra as the last Avatar. The music and the visuals together just made this a deeply tragic scene. When we think of the Avatar we see this huge lineage of important people, a few of whom we know and love as characters, seeing YangChen, Kuruk, Kyoshi, Roku and especially Aang and Wan disappear in the way they did hit me hard. Characters that I connected with just like Korra potentially gone forever, the Avatar as an entity changed forever. Also the fact that this Book has made me feel so much for a spirit is impressive, the "death" of Raava was brutal, but they did not hold back, they showed the world altering effects of winning or losing at Harmonic Convergence. All of this coming after a roller coaster fight scene with the ebb and flow of the fight, Korra was in danger, then in control, in danger again. She even early on had a near repeat of what Wan did, history was about to repeat itself until Unalaq interfered. This was the beginning of this episode comparing Korra and Wan, Korra thinking that the only way to win is to do things exactly as Wan did them, the start of the big development she goes through in this finale.
We got a very dramatic moment with Mako and Bolin here too. I mentioned in my last review that hearing Korra tell Mako and Bolin to deal with Unalaq had me fearing for them. When she tossed Unalaq back into the physical world and ordered them to not let him back in, that was intense, she gave them a huge job and they were at risk. They played the tenseness of this scene perfectly, Mako and Bolin both on edge as Unalaq lurks in the surrounding forests trying to catch them off guard, eventually getting themselves too focused on Unalaq that they don't see Eska and Desna coming. I was a bit impressed with Unalaq here, he had to get back into the spirit world quickly, but he took his time and waited for Eska and Desna to arrive.
We then get the start of the epic Avatar Vs Dark Avatar battle. We see Unalaq and Vaatu fuse together in the same way that Wan and Raava did, the main differences here being that Unalaq is only a waterbender and Vaatu is the spirit of darkness not light. Unalaq gains the advantage quickly and in a pretty disturbing moment is about to crush his niece in an ice fissure. Then as Avatar always does well we get our fist pumping, oh yeah, epic moment when Raava speaks to Korra for the first time and gives Korra confidence, giving us our big Avatar State moment, now with golden glowing. "You Cannot Win!" what a line, I fully expected this to be the end of the battle and something else to then happen, I mean they could not possibly have the Avatar lose after their epic Avatar state moment, could they?
As I mentioned above, they did that and then some with Korra losing Raava and her past lives. A key point here should be that Vaatu and Unalaq could have killed Korra then and there and won the day, but to those two humans are to be looked down upon, their whole goal during the fight was to get to Raava, ignoring Korra herself. This again played into the main theme of the finale, the power that you have yourself as an individual, you are not a reflection of someone else, you are you. They thought that with Raava out of the way they had won, boy were they wrong! It is something I would usually criticise in a show, a villain not doing the logical thing, but with Vaatu and Unalaq it makes sense, Vaatu never once called Korra Korra, he always talked to the spirit within her, Raava. He never learned from 10,000 years ago that the key factor in his defeat was Wan, a human and what he thought Raava, not just the power that Raava gave Wan. Unalaq has shown that he has lost track of his humanity, his bonding with Vaatu, resulting in the last of his humanity going away, all he cared about was the spirits too. This is really shown when at the end of the episode the two transform into a giant human-like dark spirit, UnaVaatu.
Last but not least, Tenzin got his own big moment in this episode in the spirit world. The 3 Kataang siblings meet Iroh who gives Tenzin the key piece of information he needs, he will find Jinora in the place where souls lost in the spirit world go. Leading him to get them all captured and sent to the Fog Of Lost Souls. It is here we get another fantastic ATLA reference in the return of Zhao, who has clearly spent the past 71 or so years wandering around this place losing his mind after being dragged to the spirit world by the ocean spirit, he was the perfect character to showcase what the fog does to people, Zhao always had delusions of grandeur and the fog amplified that until it was all he could do. The impact it had on all 3 characters was interesting. Kya began to talk about not having a family and wanting nothing to tie her down to one place, we know she only returned to her mother after years of travelling when Aang died. Bumi becomes frightened of cannibals, leading me to assume that he encountered actual cannibals at some stage and is afraid of them. Tenzin is separated from his brother and siblings and attempts to keep himself sane by defining himself out loud, mentioning that he is the hope for future Airbenders and Aang's son, doubt creeps in and he realises that a lot of these hopes he has placed on himself to be like his father have not gone as planned, he feels like he has failed. Enter Aang, when I first saw Aang I thought he was part of the fog and that he would say something to further put Tenzin on a path to distress, but no, Aang says that Tenzin is not him and that he is Tenzin. A simple statement of fact, but one that was so huge coming from Aang to Tenzin, he needed to hear his father say that and make him realise that he is not a reflection of his father, he is his own person. This allows him to free himself from the fog and save Jinora and his siblings. This advice is important as it is key in Korra developing in the next episode.
I was very impressed by this episode, the Korra side was fast paced and full of action, drama, emotion and intensity, while the Tenzin story was slower paced and emotional in a different way. They worked well together in that these two stories coming together in the next episode is key to how things play out. While the next episode is amazing and will probably be praised as the better of the two final episodes, this episode should be noted for having what must have been one of the biggest writing decisions made in Avatar, the decision to destroy Korra's connection with the past Avatars. Our fandom is the Avatar fandom, so them making a decision to change, possibly forever something to integral to the title object of the fandom is massive. Many fans complained about the Book 1 finale for Korra getting her bending back straight away, now something even bigger has happened to Korra and the world. A decision of that magnitude deserves credit, how many other shows would go that far to show the stakes?